Simona Iammarino and Paula Prenzel, Department of Geography and Environment, London School of Economics and Political Science
Gender imbalance in academia is a widely acknowledged and hotly discussed phenomenon, across and within disciplinary fields, in increasingly aware scientific communities. It has been particularly intense in STEM fields where skewed gender ratios are perhaps most obvious. In regional science, this issue has been addressed in several instances in the past. The Regional Science Newsletter of October 2009 (RSAI, 2009) was dedicated to Women in Regional Science and featured sections on this topic by Alessandra Faggian, Brigitte Waldorf and Maureen Kilkenny. Faggian analysed the lists of participants at selected conferences and found that between 19 and 30% of attendees were female. Waldorf reported on the history of regional science as a male-dominated field; however, she pointed out with optimism the increasing participation and recognition of female academics in the 1990s and 2000s, indicating that the problem might already be mitigated by generational adjustments. Kilkenny described how a community among women in regional science developed through the creation of the WRS Happy Hour at the North American meetings. The underlying tone of these contributions was hopeful, suggesting that positive changes were underway. This piece replicates and extends some of Faggian’s and Waldorf’s analyses by presenting a range of statistics on the role of women in regional science based on data from 2017, almost a decade later.
Despite the undoubted rise in the share of female academics in general, and in regional science specifically, a further investigation into gender imbalance is not only relevant but also timely. Recent events in the public sphere as well as some highly publicized research results have drawn renewed attention to the role of gender in (academic) career paths. Although the skewed gender ratio in STEM fields is usually emphasized, female representation is also a serious concern in economics. The Committee on the Status of Women in the Economics Profession of the American Economic Association surveys gender composition of economics departments yearly and concludes that the share of women starting PhD programs in economics has been stagnant for the past 20 years and that women are less likely to advance to tenured professorship positions (CSWEP, 2017). Additionally, research such as Alice Wu’s (2017) analysis of words used to describe female versus male academics on the online forum econjobrumours.com suggests that economics is not only a field with relatively few women, but also that a culture of “locker-room-talk” could deter women from entering the field. Considering the close relationship between the disciplines of economics and regional science, a closer look at women in regional science is justified. Moreover, rather than considering only the participation of women in the field, this article focuses on the academic recognition awarded to female versus male academics.
Broadly replicating our colleagues’ analyses, we collected data on female keynote speakers, editorial board members and award recipients in regional science and, more broadly, economic geography. A clear limitation of interpreting this data is the lack of a baseline comparison case. The fact that fewer women than men pursue a degree or career in regional science means that we do not know what an appropriate amount of, for example, keynote lectures delivered by women would be. Nevertheless, collecting and presenting statistics on the share of women being featured prominently in regional science establishes a starting point for a state-of-the-art and a baseline against which to compare future progress.
Female keynote speakers
In her contribution to the October 2009 RSAI Newsletter, Faggian presented the share of women as participants, discussants and session chairs for 6 conferences. Her results showed that participants were between 19% and 30% female, and that session chairs and discussants were proportionally or sometimes even more than proportionally female. Faggian also found that conferences set in Europe had higher shares of female participants than in North America.
To analyse the representation of women as prominent speakers at conferences, data on keynote and plenary presentations was collected for seven recurring conferences: ERSA, NARSC, PRSCO, Regional Studies Association (RSA) conferences (referring to all RSA conferences listed on the online archive, i.e. including Annual and Winter conferences but also regional divisions such as e.g. RSA North America), GCEG, TRIPLEHELIX and DRUID. This wider set of events was chosen to represent the increasing blurring of discipline boundaries. For each of these conferences, all programmes that were openly available online were analysed, counting the number of keynote and plenary speakers. Table 1 and Figure 1 illustrate the results. On average, i.e. across all conferences, the share of female keynote speakers is 18.9%. DRUID conferences have the highest share of female keynote speakers with 28.6%. In contrast, PRSCO had only one woman deliver a keynote in the three years sampled here, accounting for only 6.3%.
Table 1: Shares of female keynote/plenary speaker by conference
|PRSCO||2011, 2013, 2015||16||1||6.3|
|GCEG||2000, 2007, 2011, 2015||26||5||19.2|
|1 RSA conferences refer to all conferences listed on the online RSA conference archive.|
Figure 1: Share of female keynote/plenary speakers by conference
While Faggian identified ERSA as one of the positive examples with respect to female participation at the conference in 2009, the same cannot be said for keynote speeches. In the last 14 years, we counted 61 people speaking at ERSA keynotes and plenary events, but only 7 of these were women. To put this in perspective, Table 2 shows the share of female participants at ERSA for the years 2011-2015, which was reported on the respective conference websites. On average, more than a third of participants at ERSA were female, which, as Faggian and Waldorf (2009) highlighted, was already a great achievement. But although the audience of any of these plenary lectures may have been a third female, the prominent speakers were mostly male. In contrast, other conferences (DRUID, RSA and even NARSC) show more gender-diversity in the choice of their plenary speakers.
Table 2: Female participants and plenary speakers for ERSA conferences 2011-2015
|ERSA year||female participants||female plenary speakers|
|2011 (Barcelona)||35 %||1 (of 7)|
|2012 (Bratislava)||30 %||1 (of 6)|
|2013 (Palermo)||33.4 %||0 (of 4)|
|2014 (St. Petersburg)||39 %||1 (of 7)|
|2015 (Lisbon)||35.7 %||1 (of 5)|
|Total||34.6 %||13. 8 %|
 We exclude two plenary panel sessions from TRIPLEHELIX on the basis that they were discussing the issue of gender balance in academia and, most likely for this reason, feature only female speakers (8 in total).
Female representation in editorial boards
A further issue discussed by Waldorf in the RSAI Newsletter 2009, was the share of women on editorial boards in regional science. This is relevant as a measure of female participation in the discipline generally, but also in assessing the responsibilities and leadership roles in the publishing process that are undertaken by women. We analysed the share of women on the editorial boards for 36 journals: again, this larger range of journals was selected to account for the growing inter- and multi-disciplinary nature of regional scientists and economic geographers. The data was collected from the journals’ websites and reflects the members and advisors of editorial boards in autumn 2017.
Table 3 shows the results of the data collection as well as the comparison with Waldorf’s analysis for 7 of these journals in 2009. Across the 36 sampled journals, 27% of editorial board members were female, which is an encouraging result. However, the share of women on editorial boards varies dramatically across journals: whilst the editorial board for Progress in Human Geography is 61.9% female, the same share for Regional Science and Urban Economics is only 5.2%. This difference is of course likely due to differences in the gender ratio between human geography and regional and urban economics, but it illustrates the relative absence of female researchers and editorial board members in some areas within regional science.
Moreover, while the share of women on editorial boards has increased between 2009 and 2017 for some journals, it has stagnated or even declined for others. Comparing Waldorf’s data from 2009 with 2017, the share of women on the editorial board of Letters in Spatial and Resource Sciences as well as The Annals of Regional Science actually decreased. It would be interesting to know if this indicates a decrease of women working in the target research areas for these journals overall, or if this trend goes opposite increasing female participation in the field. Unfortunately, without a baseline number, this cannot be evaluated.
Table 3: Female members of journals’ editorial boards (members and advisors, autumn 2017)
|Journal||Members||Women||% 2017||% 2009
|Regional Science and Urban Economics||58||3||5.2|
|Letters in Spatial and Resource Sciences||40||3||7.5||9|
|Journal of Urban Economics||58||6||10.3|
|Journal of Regional Science||62||7||11.3||9|
|The Annals of Regional Science||49||6||12.2||14|
|Industrial and Corporate Change||96||12||12.5|
|Spatial Economic Analysis||35||5||14.3|
|European Planning Studies||24||4||16.7|
|Journal of Geographical System||32||6||18.8||7|
|Papers in Regional Science||52||10||19.2||12|
|Geografiska Annaler: Series B, Human Geography||15||3||20.0|
|Journal of Economic Geography||52||11||21.2|
|Growth and Change||35||8||22.9|
|Regional Studies, Regional Science||119||28||23.5|
|Tijdschrift voor economische en sociale geografie||25||6||24.0|
|European Urban and Regional Studies||37||9||24.3|
|Environment and Planning A||41||11||26.8|
|Population, Space and Place||41||11||26.8|
|International Regional Science Review||45||14||31.1||10|
|Journal of International Business Studies||263||85||32.3|
|Regional Science Policy & Practice||37||12||32.4||0|
|Development and Change||49||16||32.7|
|Environment and Planning B||27||9||33.3|
|Journal of Technology Transfer||44||15||34.1|
|Small Business Economics||108||37||34.3|
|Industry & Innovation||42||15||35.7|
|Annals of the American Association of Geographers||82||32||39.0|
|International Journal of Urban and Regional Research||60||25||41.7|
|Environment and Planning D||33||17||51.5|
|Progress in Human Geography||21||13||61.9|
Female Prize and Award Winners
The last section of Waldorf’s piece in the RSAI Newsletter considered the number of women receiving prizes and other recognitions. Waldorf discussed in 2009 that women were almost entirely absent from the lists of prizes awarded for lifetime achievements, most likely due to the fact that women only began to emerge as prominent intellectuals in regional science in the 1980s. In contrast, she found that awards for young scholars seemed to be awarded in a more gender-balanced manner.
Table 4 presents the updated list of female prize winners based on the information provided on the RSAI and NARSC websites in December 2017. As is to be expected, women still make up a small percentage of prize winners for lifetime awards simply because there are fewer women who would be eligible. However, both the David Boyce Award for Service to Regional Science and the Sir Peter Hall Contribution to the Field Award were awarded 3 times to women since 2009. Moreover, Roberta Capello was the first woman to receive the EIB ERSA Prize in Regional Science in 2017. Thus, as predicted by Waldorf, the generational change towards more female senior-level intellectuals is indeed reflected to some degree in the lists of prize winners, although these remain predominantly male.
However, for awards that do not honour lifetime achievements, we would expect relatively more equal gender ratios. Interestingly, the share of women receiving such awards has been stagnant or even decreased since 2009. 30.8% of RSAI Dissertation Awards have so far been given to Women (40% in 2009), and 35.3% of Benjamin H. Steven Graduate Fellowships (40% in 2009). The Epainos Award for Young Regional Scientists has only been awarded to women in 19.4% of all cases, and not at all since 2009, although there is a considerable amount of women entering the competition for the Epainos award, at least recently.
Table 4: Female award recipients in comparison to Waldorf (2009)
|Award||#||Female recipients||%||% 2009|
|RSAI Dissertation Award (2003-2017)||13||2002 Adelheid Holl
2005 Ikuho Yamada
2012 Carlianne Elizabeth Patrick
2017 Mirjam Schindler
|Benjamin H. Stevens Graduate Fellowship in Regional Science (2000-2017)||17||2001 Rachel Franklin
2003 Alison Davies Reum
2005 Xiakun Wang
2009 Elizabeth Mack
2012 Ran Wei
2017 Lindsay E. Relihan
|Geoffrey J.D. Hewings Award (1995-2016)||23||1995 Brigitte Waldorf
1999 Ayse Can
2000 Maureen Kilkenny
2006 Kara Kockelman
2008 Elena G. Irwin
2014 Eleonora Patacchini
2015 Alessandra Faggian
2016 Daoqin Tong
|Epainos Award for Young Regional Scientist (1st place only)||31||2000 Sari Pekkala
2002 Adelheid Holl
2002 Claudia Stirboeck
2002 Elke Amend
2008 Eveline van Leeuwen
2009 Theresa Grafeneder-Weissteiner
|Martin Beckmann RSAI Annual Award for the best Paper in Papers in Regional Science (2007-2017)||30||2008 Annette S. Zeilstra
2011 Mika Goto
2014 Flavia Terribile
2014 Ornella Tarola
2014 Federica Busillo
2017 Marloes Hoogerbrugge
|Moss Madden Memorial Medal (2001-2016)||17||2006 Alessandra Faggian
2007 Aisling Reynolds-Feighan
2010 Eveline van Leeuwen
2012 Simonetta Longhi
2014 Karyn Morrissey
|William Alonso Memorial Prize e (2002-2016)||10||2006 Ann Markusen||10||20|
|NARSC Special Recognition Awards (1995-2013)||6||1995 Beth Carbonneau||16.7||20|
|Walter Isard Award for Scholarly Achievement (1994-2016)
|32||1996 Ann Markusen
1996 Karen R. Polenske
2001 Carol Taylor-West
2012 Anna Nagurney
|RSAI Fellows Award (2002-2017)
|81||2005 Karen R. Polenske
2006 Ann Markusen
2007 Anna Nagurney
2009 Janice Madden
2010 Aura Reggiani
2013 Roberta Capello
|RSAI Founders Medal (1978-2016)||9||–||0||0|
|EIB ERSA Prize in Regional Science (2003-2017)||15||2017 Roberta Capello||6.7||0|
|David Boyce Award for Service to Regional Science (1994-2016)||32||2010 Janice Fanning Madden
2011 Janet Kohlhase
2015 Rachel Franklin
|Hirotada Kohno Award (2007-2016)||8||–||0||–|
|Peter Nijkamp Research Encouragement Award||3||–||0||–|
|Sir Peter Hall Contribution to the Field Award||9||2009 Ann Markusen||33.3|
|(2009-2017)||2016 Susan Christopherson|
|2017 Saskia Sassen|
 Presenting the data on the gender of Epainos session presenters is left for future research. However, a cursory analysis showed that in the last 3 years (2015-2017) exactly 50% of all Epainos presenters were women.
 Waldorf seems to count some 2nd places (but not all) and also mistook one male winner to be female, which explains part of the relatively large difference between 2009 and 2017.
The updated statistics on women in regional science and especially in prominent positions yield mixed results. On the one hand, there is an increasing number of women in the field. On the other hand, women are still not frequently featured in positions of academic prominence, e.g. as keynote speakers, members of editorial boards or award winners. While the underlying cause may simply be a relatively small number of women entering and staying in the discipline, these statistics nevertheless raise a number of issues.
First, the fact that the share of keynote speakers and editorial board members varies quite dramatically with the precise conference or journal, raises the question why some sub-disciplines or sub-groups of regional science exhibit more gender diversity than others. Is it simply a question of women sorting into editorial boards for specific journals rather than others? Is there a signalling or selection effect, e.g. if the presence of women in these areas attracts more women? Or are there corners of the field which remain – or become – boys’ clubs?
Second, we cannot rely on the share of women in regional science to increase, or their status within it to improve, as a simple matter of human progress across generations: unavoidable examples from fields as diverse as the political leadership of great nations to career progress in entertainment or sport show us that this is a problem that needs proactive behaviour. The experience of the field of economics shows that “leaky pipelines” of graduates may mean that women are less likely to ever end up in the types of positions that would warrant life-time achievement awards, powerful editorships, or keynote speeches. This can feed a vicious circle because a lack of female role models and mentors may discourage young researchers from remaining in the field of regional science.
In order to address these possible issues, reliable and detailed monitoring of such statistics over time is necessary. The Regional Studies Association, in its 2018 – 2020 Development Plan, articulates a firm commitment to increasing both awareness of and action on issues of diversity and equality. It already has a Diversity and Equality Committee and its Chair sits on the RSA Board. It is undertaking research on issues of gender and peer review and its Development Plan sets aside funding for further activities including special interest groups in this area. Collecting statistics on the aspects presented here, but also more generally, on the baseline comparison of how many women teach, research, and publish in regional science and related disciplines is the only way to quantify the role of women in the field. This is important not only to illustrate progress being made but also, if necessary, to focus on fostering greater female engagement with the scientific community.
CSWEP. (2017). The 2016 Report on the Status of Women in the Economics Profession. Reports from the American Economic Association’s Committee on the Status of Women in the Economics Profession, (1). Retrieved from https://www.aeaweb.org/content/file?id=3643
RSAI. (2009). Women in Regional Science. RSAI Newsletter, (October 2009).
Wu, A. H. (2017). Gender Stereotyping in Academia: Evidence from Economics Job Market Rumors Forum. University of California, Berkeley. Retrieved from https://www.dropbox.com/s/v6q7gfcbv9feef5/Wu_EJMR_paper.pdf?dl=0